Who Are Today’s Abbesses of Abbesses?

Gerondissa Akylina, Gerondissa Porphyria (Sipsa) and Gerondissa Makrina (Portaria)

Gerondissa Akylina, Porphyria, Sipsa Monastery and St. Georgios Karslidis

Friday, November 4, feast day of the Blessed Elder Georgios Karslidis of Pontos, warmed my heart with fond memories of nearly 3 decades of pilgrimages to beautiful, gem monasteries in Northern Greece!

“God cares for everyone. Despair is in effect a lack of faith.”

Gerondissa Akylina, Porphyria, Sipsa Monastery and St. Georgios Karslidis

Taxiarches and the Analipseos Monastery (Sipsa) in Greece is one of the Monasteries in Greece that holds a dear place in my heart. Together with that of St. Paisios in Souroti, they were the first monasteries I started visiting as a University student, before my graduate studies and work at the US. At that time Gerondissa Porphyria, a Living Signpost in my journey on The Way,  had not even become a monastic, and now she is a renowned Abbess, one of the few of her ‘calibre’ in contemporary women’s monasteries.

Gerondissa Akylina, Porphyria, Sipsa Monastery and St. Georgios Karslidis

The Blessed Elder Georgios Karslidis of Pontos (1901-1959), latter day saint of the Saintly Orthodox Church in Greece,  glorified by the Patriarchate of Constantinople in 2008, was the first “resident” and founder of the monastery in the year 1930. He is one of few saints known to bear an imprint of the sign of the cross on his skull. There is a flourishing multitudinous sisterhood of nuns here today, who occupy themselves with the Iconography of handheld pictures, gold embroidery,knitting and waxwork.
Gerondissa Akylina, Porphyria, Sipsa Monastery and St. Georgios Karslidis

Gerondissa Akylina, Porphyria, Sipsa Monastery and St. Georgios Karslidis

Gerondissa Akylina, Porphyria, Sipsa Monastery and St. Georgios Karslidis

Gerondissa Akylina, Porphyria, Sipsa Monastery and St. Georgios Karslidis

Gerondissa Akylina, Porphyria, Sipsa Monastery and St. Georgios Karslidis

Gerondissa Akylina, Porphyria, Sipsa Monastery and St. Georgios Karslidis

Gerondissa Akylina, Porphyria, Sipsa Monastery and St. Georgios Karslidis

Gerondissa Akylina, Porphyria, Sipsa Monastery and St. Georgios Karslidis

Gerondissa Akylina, Porphyria, Sipsa Monastery and St. Georgios Karslidis

Gerondissa Akylina, Porphyria, Sipsa Monastery and St. Georgios Karslidis

Gerondissa Akylina, Porphyria, Sipsa Monastery and St. Georgios Karslidis

Gerondissa Akylina, Porphyria, Sipsa Monastery and St. Georgios Karslidis

Gerondissa Akylina, Porphyria, Sipsa Monastery and St. Georgios Karslidis

Gerondissa Akylina, Porphyria, Sipsa Monastery and St. Georgios Karslidis

Gerondissa Akylina, Porphyria, Sipsa Monastery and St. Georgios Karslidis

Gerondissa Akylina, Porphyria, Sipsa Monastery and St. Georgios Karslidis

Gerondissa Akylina, Porphyria, Sipsa Monastery and St. Georgios Karslidis

Gerondissa Akylina was the first Abbess. I had the rare blessing to meet her a number of times during the last years of her life. In the words of our late Elder Iosif Vatopaidinos, Gerondissa Akylina, together with Gerondissa Makrina in Portaria, were ‘Abbesses of Abbesses’:  examples of the monastic life and their monasteries models of coenobia, workshops of virtue and antechambers of Paradise.

Gerondissa Akylina, Porphyria, Sipsa Monastery and St. Georgios Karslidis

Gerondissa Akylina, Porphyria, Sipsa Monastery and St. Georgios Karslidis

Gerondissa Akylina holding the Cross of St. Georgios Karslidis which was found intact after the translation of his relics. He is one of few saints known to bear an imprint of the sign of the cross on his skull.

Gerondissa Akylina, Porphyria, Sipsa Monastery and St. Georgios Karslidis

Gerondissa Porphyria has always been so full of love and humility, always ready to sacrifice her ease,  her rest and sleep, everything for her ‘neighbour! How many times has she consoled me in the trials and tribulations of my life! Always by my side, always! How many times has she offered a shoulder to cry on and precious, practical counsel! Her prayerful presence is intensely, intimately felt even thousands of miles away, here at the UK, and her smile warms my heart. Oh, just look at her smile in the photographs below with a pilgrim at the monastery and imagine the rays of the sun warming your shoulders after a rainy, cold day! How blessed am I to have such a spiritual mother by my side! Over the years I got better acquainted with the friendly and hospitable nuns there and the pilgrims and the faithful who regularly visit this monastery. St. Georgios’ holy presence is immediately felt upon entering the monastery gate, and there is always a queue at his tomb where his spiritual children kneel before their spiritual father, now in Heaven, to ask for his spiritual guidance and to seek comfort in life’s trials and tribulations.
For a closer insight at Elder Georgios Karslidis and his miracles, watch the following interview by Gerontissa Porphyria:

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